Want to make a real difference to your weekly budget? One BrisLETS member shows how.

Dumpster diving is rescuing household food items from stock that the staff of a shop, supermarket, etc., has thrown into a skip outside the shops, usually at closing time.

What is dumped, and why

Some shops may dump a huge amount of good food if they have overstocked. Or if one egg is broken, they’ll discard the whole carton.

Similarly, with pre-packed fruit and vegetables, one pear with a bad spot means the whole packet may be thrown away.

With pasta sauce, olive oil etc., if one jar is broken, they don’t bother removing it and cleaning up the box, but just throw it all out, which means there could be 23 perfect jars.

Other food goes in the bin because it’s nearing its use-by date, or is the end of a range, or doesn’t look perfect.

All dumpster content is destined for landfill, making it is a serious problem when the organic material decomposes and releases methane and other greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.

Safe to use

As far as I can find out, the use-by dates marked on products are not safety dates, and I’m satisfied that the food I rescue is safe and good to eat.

Salvage not illegal

The advice I’ve had is that it’s not illegal to take garbage. To be stolen, property must be owned or valued, so the contents of rubbish bins don’t count. However, I avoid bins on private property because retrieving their contents could be trespassing.

Brisbane has a group of dumpster divers, and some of the members have talked to police who said they don’t have an issue with people diving, as long as they don’t trespass or make a mess.

One diver’s routine

I dive every night, usually traveling with my electric bike and trailer. Once or twice a week I go by car with a friend and we dive for several hours in many places.

We go after closing time and we try to be quick and stealthy because some people don’t approve. If anyone objects, then we leave straight away. I wear a head-torch and gumboots, and I take a milk crate to stand on, bags and a grabber for picking up stuff. If things are out of reach, I will climb right into the bin.

We always keep our hands clean, and we tidy up and take care to leave the site better than when we found it.

Most of the food is good and has been dumped just a few hours earlier. Spring, winter and autumn are best when the weather is cooler, so the food lasts longer.

We rescue all types of fresh and non-perishable food, canned goods, dairy, flowers, oil, laundry and bathroom products, alcohol, cosmetics, health supplements, pet food, meat, herbs, cereals, snack foods, health foods and more.

Once we found a wheelchair, and there have been shelves, kitchenware, party decorations and clothes.

When I get home, I clean the rescued goods and pack them all away in the fridge or freezer before cleaning myself up. I have tables and chairs set up outside for sorting the food, and I have a spare fridge and chest freezer for storage.

I keep my bike in good condition and recharge it daily because this work involves carting heavy loads. There is also constant work to clean my trailer and the tables, fridge and floors after sorting.

Lots of food — recipients needed

I would like to find more LETS families to share the rescued food with, because there is always so much of it.

This is an opportunity for LETS to make a real difference to your weekly budget. If you’ve had difficulty finding goods and services to spend your units on, then I urge you to consider this opportunity. You can choose what items you’d like and we’ll negotiate a fair price.

If you are interested, please contact me by email, FB or text and I will send you my current list of what is available.

I work hard to present reasonable goods at low prices for LETS members, but of course I advise buyers to sort the groceries and wash or discard any items as necessary.

—Storm Furness, BLCE0955